Saturday, 1 August 2015

Open day highlights (part 2!)

Right, lets pick up from where we left off with some more highlights from last week's SPot Farm Open Day...

Optimising seed rates
Phil Burgess, from AHDB Potatoes, spoke to delegates about the principles of obtaining seed rates - talking about the need for tuber size and chronological age to be taken into account, and the impact these factors have on stem number and final yields.

Philip Burgess
Phil also highlighted the portfolio of seed rate guides, available from AHDB, which have been developed following extensive trials work with NIAB CUF. He also updated delegates on work to develop parameters which can allow seed rates to be devised for any variety. To view the seed rate guides currently available, visit:

In-field greening and crop variability
Simon Smart, from NIAB CUF, introduced delegates to the in-field greening project and crop variability studies underway at the site. The greening project specifically is an AHDB Fellowship study. This is looking at greening in relation to planting depth and the location and growth patterns of tubers and stolons within the ridge, and also varietal variances. Current industry figures suggest 10% of packhouse losses are attributable to greening - a statistic which highlighted the value of this work. For more information about the AHDB Potatoes agronomy fellowship visit:

The crop variability study being demonstrated at the SPot Farm forms part of a CUPGRA-sponsored PhD. This is investigating factors that can influence crop variability and the effect varying plant spacing can have on yield. This aims to answer the question as to whether adjusting spacing is important or not. 
Simon Smart speaking with delegates
Cultivation strategies
Mark Stalham, from NIAB-CUF, presented on cultivation strategies and the potential to reduce practices in terms of both the kit used (plough to min-till) and the depth worked to. 

The message from Mark, backed up by extensive research, is that we're able to operate shallower and still maintain yield and quality. A move which also offers benefits in the form of improved work rates and reduced costs. But clearly there's a need to be flexible and work with the season and field conditions - with the timing of cultivations and water content at time of working important considerations. Mark reiterated the risks of going too deep or poorly timing cultivations, with compaction, slumping and subsequent cropping implications all mentioned. 

Dr Mark Stalham
Nutrient planning
Rounding off the tour, nutrient planning was mine and Mark Taplin’s topic for the day – a slot in which we highlighted the demonstration strips on site which have had nitrogen applications adjusted for a muck application prior to planting and a grazed stubble turnip crop previously. An adjustment which delivered a 20kg N/ha saving in fertiliser use, with no visible impact on the condition of the crop.

Mark and I also highlighted the recent publication of AHDB Potatoes grower collaboration report for the 2014 season. A programme which, not unlike the SPot Farm, saw in-field comparison strips established on farms around the country. In some instances, it was found that increased tuber initiation, and in turn yield, was seen from fine tuning nitrogen applications. To view the complete Grower Collaboration report visit the following page:
Mark Taplin and me (Hannah)
Thank you
On a final note, I want to say a HUGE thank you to James, Sam and the rest of the Daw team for their support with the Open Day – we couldn’t have done it without you.

James and Sam Daw
And thank you to everyone for the feedback – please keep it coming – this is just the beginning! And we are on the hunt for a SPot Farm east if you’re interested…..

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